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An Examination Of “The Lord’s Prayer” — Part 1

Posted in Bible, Christianity, Christianity, Bible, Truth, Prayer, Religion, Truth with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 11, 2011 by willnotbesilent

Prayer is an integral aspect to the Christian walk. It is how we communicate our thanks, requests, and praise to Him. It is a personal thing, in which God and the individual praying have communion through Jesus Christ. Throughout the Bible, and particularly the New Testament, we read a great deal about prayers and praying. Jesus prayed, as did the apostles and the great men throughout Biblical history. We are encouraged to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Because it is so important, we should be sure to understand it. Jesus’ disciples understood this when they asked Him to teach them how to pray (Luke 11:1). Jesus responded to His disciples’ request with one of the most famous passages in Scripture.

After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. — Matthew 6:9-13

And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil. — Luke 11:2-4

The Lord’s Prayer has long been held up as a model for concise, beautiful prayer. Indeed, when the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, the example he gave them was the absolute opposite of what a Pharisee might have done. It is the embodiment of humility, worship, penitence, and perspective. Jesus even warns the disciples against the loud prayers of the Pharisees, who prayed on street corners and in public places so passersby would be impressed by their piety — but Jesus enjoins silent, even secret prayer. (Matthew 6:6) Prayer is an intimate thing between God and the petitioner, something between the two of them alone. Anyone who may happen to hear the prayer has no role in this interaction.

Even today, people, particularly Catholics, recite the Lord’s Prayer word for word. But that this is not how Jesus intended it is evident by the fact that Matthew and Luke have varying versions of this prayer, as well as Matthew 6:7, in which Jesus prefaced His example with a warning against “vain repetitions”, as the nations employ. Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and many other religions rely heavily on chants and repetitions. The worshipers of Baal (I Kings 18:26) and the worshipers of Diana (Acts 19:34) also used repetition, and as Scripture illustrates, their repetition did no good.

Our relationship with God is like that of a father and his children. As a father myself, I am well aware of how annoying it can be when my children repeat something meaningless over and over and over. It gets old quickly! Soon I want them to simply be quiet and stop talking, rather than give them what they want. There is no reason not to place God in that same predicament when we fall into prayer patterns and vain repetition. God seeks earnestness. He wants us to come before him with our petitions, speaking from the heart with faith. “Ask, and it will be given to you.” (Matthew 7:7) If we pray the same prayer, word for word, in a mindless chant, rather than having heart and meaning behind it, God only considers it empty words.

Another thing that Jesus illustrates through His model prayer is that it is not long-winded and flowery, as were the prayers of the Pharisees and, sadly, are many prayers we hear today in churches of all denominations. It is to the point, and in being so concise, multiplies the power and beauty of its words a thousandfold.

  • Our Father which art in Heaven.

As I mentioned earlier, our relationship with God is as that of a father and his children. Romans 8:15 says that we have received the Spirit of adoption, by which we cry, “Abba, Father.”  (“Abba” is simply a transliteration of the Chaldee word for “father”). In Galatians 4:5, Paul reminds us that we were redeemed that we might receive the adoption of sons. When Jesus teaches us to cry out to God as “Father”, He emphasizes that we share with Him a special relationship with God, a relationship of glory as well as subservience. At the time of Jesus’ walk on earth, the usual address of Jewish prayer was, “Oh Lord God of our fathers”. Jesus is turning that on its head by showing that, not only is God the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but He is also OUR FATHER — not someone to regard in terror, but someone to whom we are free to run in times of trouble, who loves us and desires our good.

Jesus repeatedly made examples in which he compared God to a father (Luke 11:9-13, Luke 15:11-32), and repeatedly referred to God directly as the Father (Luke 6:36, John 6:37).

Now, we know that God did not beget Christ or Christians in the sense that our physical fathers begot us. Christ is an aspect of God — His Word — rather than an actual offspring or child, and has been with God since the beginning. Indeed, we are told that nothing exists that was not created THROUGH Jesus (John 1:3). Thus we know that God and Jesus, being one, have coexisted since past eternity. Christians, in similar manner, are not God’s children in the sense that you and I are the children of our own parents. Rather, our position as “begotten” or “sons” is something bestowed upon us by God Himself (Galatians 4:4-5).

God begets us when we obey Him. We are not His literal, biological children, but rather children of God through faith (Galatians 3:26). We are adopted as God’s children when we repent and obey. Notice that not until Jesus had “fulfilled all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15) by being baptized by John the Baptizer did God announce, “This is my only begotten Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17).  Likewise, when we believe, repent, and are baptized into Christ, we become sons with Him (Romans 8:17).

“In Heaven” is a qualifier that sets God apart as a specific Father: The one who is in Heaven, the only one truly qualified to bear the title (Matthew 23:9). It signifies His majesty, placing Him high above all (Ephesians 4:6). Our prayer ascends to a place where we are not, to a Being far above us in every regard.

It denotes respect, as well as humility, acknowledging God’s far higher status and our own lowly, unworthy position. We come before God as sinners, penitent and humble — not proclaiming our own self-worth like the Pharisee in Jesus’ story (Luke 18:11). God is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, and magnificent beyond comprehension, while we are not even worthy of notice (Psalm 144:3).

We serve a mighty God. We must recognize Him as such.

 

In the next post on this topic, we will continue to examine “The Lord’s Prayer” and how it serves as a model for us to follow when we address our Lord. Remarks on this topic are welcome.

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